I have been a craptastic gardener this summer, but you’d never know it from my backyard.
Instead of everything shriveling up and blowing away as it surely would if things were left to me, our gardens are thriving. That’s all Lee’s doing. He’s picked up the slack where I’ve left off, and then some. He’s out there every morning and night, sprinkling and fertilizing and examining our plants. He weeds and tends and warns the cats, birds, bugs and groundhogs who stop by to check things out that they are messing with the wrong shit.
I know he misses the way I used to be equally obsessive about a weed sticking up here or a thirsty plant there. But he also forgives me. Last summer, I was working a million hours a week, floating in the pool, fretting about turning 40, and helping tend our gardens. This summer, I am working a million hours a week, floating in the pool, not really giving a rat’s butt about turning 41, and writing my butt off.
Something has to give in the life of a day-jobbing writer in order for stories to take any kind of shape. Inventing Man-Whores and landscapers with stomach troubles takes a lot of time and energy. Because Lee loves our garden so well and tends it so faithfully, it is one of the things I have felt comfortable letting go.
As we move into mid-June, I have several completed short stories and the beginnings of a novel. Lee has given us a garden thriving with fat green tomatoes, scallions, squash, cucumbers and lettuce. The pepper pants were wilted and sad in spite of his efforts, so he removed them from the garden and potted them. They are coming to life now, perking up and promising to grow. My wilting stories are not always as easy to revive. They tend to be pushed aside as I focus on the ones that are thriving.
In the evening, I sometimes go out and look at our garden, inhaling the earthy scents of things green and growing on a muggy Maryland June night. I watch the fireflies begin their flashy sundown dance and enjoy that delicious shiver I get when a bat or two swoops overhead. I let my computer-weary eyes take in the beauty around me and am so thankful that I have him to keep this going as I turn to other ventures. Without him, I wouldn’t have this living, breathing anchor for my sanity.
This weekend, Lee plucked a few leaves from our leaf lettuce and brought them in. They were like flower petals, only crisper. I rinsed them and put them on a plate and gave them a dash of salt and a splash of apple cider vinegar, and we ate them just like that. The soft but crunchy, sweet but tangy taste of summertime.
And then I went back to my word-garden, where a Man-Whore is trying to grow, and he went back outside to set up the sprinkler.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. For me, it takes a family to raise a novel. Unlike many writers, I was not one who wrote well or often in the years that I felt disconnected and drifting and homeless in spite of the fact that I had a mortgage. My words come better now, when there is a garden outside my window.
Growing life, whether that life is green things or a fictional tale, is so much easier when your house is a home.
And if my efforts to grow a word-garden that will one day feed us fails, there will always be plenty of lettuce.